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The brambling (scientific name Fringilla montifringilla) is a bird of the finch family Fringillidae. It has featured on stamps of some countries, including Denmark and Sweden, because of its original distribution range across Scandinavia.

There are several recognizable subspecies in Europe and Asia, but in America, there is only one. This bird’s name comes from their call, which sounds like “brambling” or “hurr-hurr-hurr”. The bird is also known as “Snow Bunting” or just “Bunting” in Central Asia, where it has become widely established on the female’s name basis.

What Does a Brambling Look Like?

Bramblings are grey with a brown back, long white rump, orange breast, large white patches on their wings and black bars on their tail feathers. They have a thick yellow bill with a black tip used to break into conifer cones to feed on them when food supplies are scarce.

The brambling male has a glossy black head and throat with white cheeks ring around each eye. It also has two white wing bars separated from each other by dark brown or black colour. The female is all brown with small amounts of white on the head and wings and underparts that are buff to yellow-white in colour. The black tail is long and forked at the end, but not very spread out like a woodpecker’s tail does.

Brambling stands among autumn colours

What Do Bramblings Eat?

The brambling is an omnivore. It mainly eats small invertebrates (such as earthworms, ants and beetles), fruit and berries. During winter, bramblings feed on seeds and berries, sunflower hearts, fruit and flowers in summer. In particular, they love eating the nuts of beech trees and beech mast.

They may often visit garden bird feeders looking for seed mixes and bird food, especially during winter.

Closeup of a brambling bird, Fringilla montifringilla, in winter plumage feeding orange berries of Sorbus aucuparia

Where To See Them

Bramblings prefer the cold climates of the Arctic, and they migrate south for winter or hibernate when it snows or grows too cold.

The brambling has a very large range of swamps and marshes, ranging southward through northern Germany into southern Europe throughout the British Isles into Central Asia.

Although you may see them on bird tables with chaffinches and other similar garden birds, their natural habitats are far and diverse. Bramblings love heathland, farmland fields, beech woodland and scrubland; and are often spotted near watercourses like rivers or lakes where it breeds. It also occurs in some dry grasslands and beaches.

Bramblings must have dense foliage to live in because they nest in trees or shrubs that can be up to thirty meters high with spiky features for protection against predators.

Brambling in its natural habitat in Denmark

Where Did Bramblings Originate?

The brambling bird has been found in Europe for over 50 million years. It is presumed to have evolved in the Cretaceous period (150-66 million years ago).

Behaviour

  • The brambling is a gregarious bird, which often gathers into groups of 20 to 50 birds, and many thousands during migration. They often fly in mixed flocks with other songbirds, such as blackcaps and crossbills.
  • Though they nest in trees, they do not usually roost together in large flocks like many other birds, instead tending to winkle out of sight before bed.
  • These winter visitors can be seen in mixed-species feeding flocks because their diet consists mainly of small invertebrates and berries, so they rely on foraging for food with other birds.
  • The brambling flies widely and is very agile when feeding rather than searching for insects which would be hard work for such a big bird.

Breeding and Nesting

The brambling is a bird of the forest, both in winter and in summer. In winter, the female builds a nest of grasses and feathers in a tree or shrub, generally near streams or lakes. The eggs are laid from September to April, but usually from October to March.

The female usually lays four to five eggs in a nest of grass; unlike some other finches, it does not make a nest with spiderwebs.

The male brambling is territorial, defending an area of vegetation up to 30 square metres (100 square feet) in size, while the female builds or renovates her nest (usually adding fresh material each season). Most young are fledged by mid-June; but may sometimes be reared until early August. The female brambling may often be observed giving rides to the young, unlike most tits who do not raise their young.

Closeup shot of a cute brambling bird in the forest

Distiribution

The brambling’s main breeding range lies across central Europe, including the Alps and the Black Forest in Germany, extending southwards to the Balkans (including Turkey), Italy, Hungary and Romania. Other large areas, especially in eastern Europe (former Soviet Union), are now rapidly declining. It is also found in western Asia (Siberia) and across most of northern Asia, including Siberia.

Conservation Concern

The brambling is one of the most widespread birds in the finch family, with several subspecies divided into five separate groups according to their breeding ranges. It has extensive geographical coverage, with a land territory of around 5 million km² (2,000,000 square miles), far greater than the British population estimate.

The population is thought to be declining at a rate of 1% per year, mainly due to habitat loss from agriculture and forestry. It has been classified as being of least concern by the IUCN.

Sources and References

  1. Brambling (Fringilla Montifringilla) – voice.gardenbird.co.uk
  2. Brambling – bto.org

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